The BJP is deeply worried about the move by so-called secular parties like the Congress and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress to play the Hindu card. The saffron party feels that this could dilute its appeal among Hindus as the sole custodian and protector of majority community welfare and interests.

Apparently, the issue was one of the main items on the agenda for discussion at last week’s high-level dinner meeting at PM Narendra Modi’s residence. Cabinet ministers, BJP general secretaries and other functionaries were among those invited to brainstorm with Modi and Amit Shah on a strategy for the upcoming assembly polls as well as the crucial 2019 general election.

Modi and Shah are looking for ways to counter the opposition’s bid to woo Hindu voters and correct the impression it is pro-Muslim and seeks to appease the minorities. The dinner meeting is just the first step in their search for a counter strategy. Obviously, the duo will also hold discussions with RSS bosses who are equally concerned about the development.

Rahul Gandhi stumped the BJP and RSS with his temple run in Gujarat. He visited some 26 temples during the course of the assembly campaign, including the Somnath temple. Reports from the Congress suggest that he may embark on a temple tour in Karnataka too when it goes to polls in April-May this year.

Following in Rahul’s footsteps, Mamata Banerjee recently felicitated around 12,000 Hindu priests at Birbhum in Bengal. Mamata is better known for wearing a hijab and visiting mosques. This is probably her first outreach to the Hindu clergy. It is clearly an attempt to counter the growing influence of the BJP among Hindu-minded Bengalis.

RSS hierarchy

It’s that time of the year again when the stated term of RSS top functionaries ends and a decision has to be taken whether to give them another term or appoint new persons in their place.

This is why a subtle campaign has started to bump up Dattatreya Hosabale from secretary to the powerful post of general secretary who for all practical purposes runs the RSS. While the sarsangchalak is the top boss, the general secretary manages the Sangh’s day-to-day affairs and supervises the work of the five secretaries.

Currently the post is held by Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi who has already done several terms in the same position. RSS circles are buzzing with talk that the push for Hosabale is coming from none other than PM Narendra Modi himself. The two are great friends and share a close rapport.

While Joshi is fully supportive of Modi, he is not a PM loyalist in the way Hosabale is. He is more independent minded and tries to keep a distance from various lobbies so that he can intervene when needed as an objective troubleshooter.

Interestingly, there was similar lobbying two years ago when Joshi’s term came up for renewal. At that time, the push for Hosabale was very strong because Joshi himself had indicated that he wanted to be relieved of his organisational responsibilities so that he could devote himself to ideological pursuits.

In the end, Joshi was persuaded to accept another term because it seems many sections in the RSS were reluctant to promote Hosabale. He was seen as too close to Modi and it was felt that should he become general secretary, there was danger of the RSS becoming subservient to the political interests of the BJP and the government.

RSS circles believe that this time too Joshi will get another term for the same reasons as last time. But that hasn’t stopped friends of Hosabale from trying to get him promoted.

Film woes

Sanjay Leela Bhansali may believe that he has won a famous victory by getting a certificate from the censor board for the release of his controversial film Padmavati, or Padmavat as it is now called.
But his BJP opponents have found a way to beat him at his own game. Chief minister after BJP chief minister is banning the screening of the film in their state. The first was Vasudhara Raje in Rajasthan. Then came Manohar Parrikar in Goa. And then Jai Ram Thakur of Himachal Pradesh followed suit.

It seems all these CMs are vulnerable to pressure from the Thakur lobby which is determined to stop the screening of the film. Raje, although not a Thakur herself, has a huge Thakur voter block in her state. So does Jai Ram Thakur in Himachal. There’s double pressure on him because he himself belongs to the Thakur community.

Bhansali must now be waiting to see what other Thakur CMs of the BJP do. There are at least three prominent ones who haven’t announced anything yet: Yogi Adityanath of UP, Trivendra Singh Rawat of Uttarakhand and Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh. Can these three Thakur CMs remain silent when others of their biradari have spoken out?

Bhansali may rue the day he decided to make the film. Or he may have to depend on the NRI crowd to earn big bucks from the movie.

Sinha taking plunge?

So BJP dissident leader Yashwant Sinha is finally taking the plunge. According to reports, he is all set to announce the formation of his Rashtriya Manch on January 30. This is not a political party but a forum for like-minded people to gather and participate in struggles on burning national issues, particularly rural distress.

It seems Sinha is being supported from the outside by several opposition parties although they may not join his manch formally. Sinha remains a BJP member.

It is to be seen what the BJP does after he announces his manch. Will the party expel him or simply ignore his activities which will naturally be critical of the ruling dispensation? Ideally, Sinha may want to be expelled so that he can become a Jayprakash Narayan like figure in the months ahead as the countdown to 2019 begins.